(c)) What to do after you focus on an object of meditation
This has two sections:
1. What to do when laxity and excitement occur
2. What to do when laxity and excitement are absent
(1)) What to do when laxity and excitement occur
This has two parts:
1. Using the remedy for failing to recognize laxity and excitement
2. Using the remedy for failing to try to eliminate them even when they are recognized
(a’)) Using the remedy for failing to recognize laxity and excitement
This has two sections: (1) the defining characteristics of laxity and excitement, and (2) the method for developing vigilance that rec- ognizes them during meditation.
(1’)) The defining characteristics of laxity and excitement
Excitement is defined in Asanga’s Compendium of Knowledge:
What is excitement? It is an unquiet state of mind, considered a derivative of attachment, which pursues pleasant objects and acts as an impediment to meditative serenity.
There are three aspects to this definition: (1) Its object is an attractive and pleasant one. (2) Its subjective aspect is that your mind is unquiet and scattered outward. As it is a derivative of attachment, it engages its object with a sense of craving. (3) Its function is to impede stabilization of your mind on its object.
When your attention is inwardly fixed upon its object, excitement—which is attached to form, sound, and so on—pulls your attention helplessly toward these objects and causes distraction. As it says in Candragomin’s Praise of Confession:
Just as you are focused on meditative serenity,
Directing your attention toward it again and again,
The noose of the afflictions pulls your attention
Helplessly with the rope of attachment to objects.
Question: Is it excitement when there is scattering in which other afflictions distract your mind away from the object—or, for that matter, when there is scattering toward other virtuous objects?
Reply: Excitement is a derivative of attachment, so being distracted by other afflictions is not excitement; rather, it is the mental process of distraction which is one of the twenty secondary afflictions. Scattering toward virtuous objects may involve any virtuous mind or mental process, so not all scattering is excitement.
Many translations render laxity (bying ba) as “slackness” (zhum pa), but this “slackness” should not be construed as meaning discouragement (zhum pa). As for its definition, most yogis among these snowy peaks seem to consider laxity to be a lethargic state of mind that stays on its object of meditation without scattering elsewhere but lacks limpid clarity. This is incorrect, for lethargy is said to cause laxity, so the two are distinct, as suggested in Kamalasila’s second Stages of Meditation:
If, being oppressed by lethargy and sleepiness, you see your mind become lax, or in danger of laxity….
Also, the Sutra Unravelling the Intended Meaning says:
If there is laxity due to lethargy and sleepiness, or if you are afflicted by any secondary afflictions in meditative absorption, it is a case of internal mental distraction.
This states that when your mind becomes lax due to lethargy and sleepiness, it is distracted inwardly. Asanga’s Compendium of Knowledge also discusses laxity in the context of the secondary affliction of distraction, but distraction as he explains it may also be virtuous, so it is not necessarily afflictive.
Of lethargy, then, Asanga’s Compendium of Knowledge says:
What is lethargy? An unserviceable state of mind classified as a derivative of delusion, it works to assist all root afflictions and secondary afflictions.
So, this derivative of delusion is the heaviness and unserviceability of body and mind. Vasubandhu’s Treasury of Knowledge Auto-commentary says:
What is lethargy? The heaviness of the body and the heaviness of the mind which are the unserviceability of the body and the unserviceability of the mind.
Laxity means that your mind’s way of apprehending the object of meditation is slack, and it does not apprehend the object with much vividness or firmness. So even if it is limpid, if your mind’s way of apprehending the object is not highly vivid, then laxity has set in. Kamalasila’s second Stages of Meditation states:
When your mind does not see the object vividly—like a person born blind, or a person entering a dark place, or like having one’s eyes shut—then recognize that your mind has become lax.
I have not seen a clear presentation of the definition of laxity in the other classic texts.
Laxity may be virtuous or ethically neutral, whereas lethargy is either a nonvirtuous or ethically neutral mental obstruction, and it is invariably a derivative of delusion. Moreover, the classic texts say that to dispel laxity, you must bring to mind pleasant objects such as the body of the Buddha, or meditate on light so as to stimulate your mind. Therefore, you have to stop the object from appear- ing unclearly, as though darkness were descending on your mind, and you have to put an end to the quality of attention which has become flaccid. You need both a clear object of meditation and a tight way of apprehending the object. Neither a clear object alone nor transparency of the subject alone is enough.
It is easy to recognize excitement, but laxity is hard to comprehend since it is not clearly identified in the authoritative classic texts. It is also very important because in this case it is a major point of misunderstanding concerning flawless concentration. Therefore, you should experience laxity with an exacting awareness, and on that basis examine it well and identify it in accordance with Kamalasila’s Stages of Meditation.
Lamrim Chenmo Pg57L15-Pg60L11